The National Council for Educational Research and Training is a reputed autonomous but government constituted body It prepares, with consultation of experts, text books (and outlines a Curricular Framework) for schools mainly CBSE schools run by the union government. NCERT books are also accepted and used in schools in many states. (around 19 school boards from 14 states)
When the new National Curriculum Framework (National Curriculum Framework) was adopted in 2005, NCERT invited experts from different disciplines as Chief Advisors to prepare a new textbook according to that framework. NCERT communicated to these advisors that the new course should be outlined in consultation with colleagues from all over the country. Through this process, a text book was to be designed (formulated) in the next year (2006).
At the time Civics was a subject in schools and Politics or Political Science was a subject for higher secondary i.e. Standards XI and XII. I taught both these subjects as professor at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune. Yogendra Yadav, a professor at CSDS, Delhi, was called in as chief advisor.
The first decision taken by us was to fix this subject called Civics. This is a category handed down from the British colonial period and hence the subject was taught within social sciences under the name of “politics” from Standards IX to X.
We invited almost 50 professors from the schools across the country, divided them into different groups and (based on consultations) prepared a new Rajya Shastra book, one for class IX, one for class XI and two for class XII. Later it was translated into Hindi and other languages. This book came into existence in 2006 and 2007. This is the background to the controversy that has now arisen with which we are concerned.
What has happened now begins at start of last year. NCERT announced that now since the times of Covid-19 pandemic (and its fallout) we will remove some burden from study so that there it eases study for the children. Following this decision, that many parts were gradually removed, sometimes announced and sometimes unannounced. Now this year, 2023, this process was given a new name. In English, we were told that “we” (NCERT) are “rationalising” studies and books. What this means is that NCERT is removing “any extra useless or inappropriate content from the book.”
In doing so, they removed the very foundational link between democracy and diversity. Federalism vanished. Not only this, but the period of the Emergency, which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has itself has been constantly talking about, was also removed. And of course, while doing all this, the parts that mentioned the Gujarat (2002) riots were removed. Not only this, some parts of sentences, for example, one sentence about Khalistan was retained and the other was removed. There were also changes in the methodology.
People’s Movements Social Movements are covered by a separate chapter in the book for Standard XII. And remember, students of class XII are voters. Now, keeping that in mind, what did NCERT do? They prepared for the student, a serial book covering sixty years of the Indian political history but –critically–entire Indian politics, but removed the chapter on social movements from it. News of such changes was received in the public domain but at no stage were the advisors or experts or teachers originally consulted, even told about these changes. We did not expect them to.
But basically what we are now saying is that now these books have been changed beyond recognition. That is, the books we created (2006) and the books that have now been cut and pruned (with chapters removed and passed down to children) are two entirely different things. Whenever we create a series of books, these books have an nternal logic. That logic no longer exists. Children are no longer expected to ask questions themselves. And so we have asked NCERT not to put our name on these books as Chief Advisors on the printed books anymore.
On this issue, some people have asked why don’t you resign? It is not a question of resignation, because we have been freed from our responsibilities in the past. And resigned. But until new books are produced, the authors and editors of old books remain. That’s how our name on the “Text Book Development Team” kept appearing on the opening pages for years.
Now what we mean is that the textbook we developed is not what the present textbook is. Now if NCERT wants to keep this text book then they should write the name of experts they want to credit (for the new version) but we have nothing to do with these books.
In a sense this is our protest, in a sense it is also our important philosophical role in the educational context. And so in the context of these books, just like in the science book, for example, the subject of evolution in science is removed. It has happened in the history text that any mention of Mughals has been removed.
On June 9, in an open letter to the Director, NCERT, stating they were “Embarrassed” with the NCERT textbooks, Suhas Palshikar, Yogendra Yadav asked NCERT to drop their names. Following recent controversial changes made to political science textbooks, the political scientists wrote to NCERT asking it to drop their names as chief advisors. We feel embarrassed that our names should be mentioned as chief advisors to these mutilated and academically dysfunctional textbooks,” they said.
The letter was written jointly by Suhas Palshikar and Yogendra Yadav since they have been advisors for political science textbooks for the central body. They released their letter in light of disagreements with controversial changes that the education council recently made to many of its textbooks. “We were never consulted or even informed of these changes … The frequent and serial deletions do not seem to have any logic except to please the powers that be,” Palshikar and Yadav said in their letter to the NCERT director. Prof. Suhas Palshikar and I have dissociated ourselves from the six NCERT textbooks that we had the honour to put together but that have now been mutilated beyond recognition. We have asked NCERT to remove our names from these books.
While for the regime, the modifications have been justified on the grounds of ‘rationalisation’, we fail to see any pedagogical rationale at work here. We find that the text has been mutilated beyond recognition,” the letter also reads.
Among the changes the NCERT made to its political science textbooks earlier this year are removing references to the 2002 Gujarat communal violence from its Class 12 book, chapters titled ‘Democracy and Diversity’, ‘Popular Struggles and Movements’ and ‘Challenges of Democracy’ from its Class 10 book and a section on sedition from its Class 8 book. The NCERT has also removed chapters relating to Mughal history from a Class 12 history textbook, and last year it also summarily deleted chapter on Darwin’s theory of evolution from its Class 10 biology textbook.It justified its decisions as part of a ‘rationalisation’ exercise designed to “reduce the content load” on students following the COVID-19 pandemic.